The fantasy romance The Shape of Water added another key prize in its awards season run with Guillermo del Toro’s win at the Directors Guild Awards Saturday.

The Shape of Water, about a mute woman who falls in love with an underwater creature, has emerged as the awards season front-runner with a Producers Guild Award and a leading 13 Academy Award nominations.

Guillermo del Toro won out over fellow directors Greta Gerwig, Martin McDonagh, Christopher Nolan and Jordan Peele, although Peele did win the prize for first-time feature film for his blockbuster horror film.

Other winners on Saturday included Matthew Heineman for the documentary City of Ghosts, Jean-Marc Valle for Big Little Lies, Reed Morano for The Handmaid’s Tale and Glenn Weiss for directing the 89th Academy Awards.

Representation and the ongoing cultural shift happening in Hollywood and across the country regarding sexual misconduct was at least an undertone of many of the speeches of the evening, as the topics have been throughout awards season.

The DGA, which represents more than 17,000 entertainment industry professionals, sent its members a set of guidelines detailing procedures for handling sexual harassment on Thursday. The guild also joined the Anita Hill-chaired Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.

The Directors Guild also honours directing live-action and scripted programming and even commercials. Niki Caro, who directing the live-action Mulan, won her first DGA for directing an episode of Anne with an E in the children’s programmes category.

Comedy series directing went to Veep’s Beth McCarthy-Miller, who was up against Aziz Ansari in the category. Don Roy King also won a DGA for Saturday Night Live, Brian Smith won for MasterChef and Martin de Thurah was recognised for his commercial work.

All directors nominated in the feature category are given nomination medallions throughout the ceremony, which includes presentations from their cast or collaborators and speeches before the final award is announced.

From Gerwig to Peele, all the nominated directors spoke of their pride of being able to call themselves directors and to be in the guild. The Directors Guild Awards serve as a reliable predictor for who will eventually win the best director prize at the Academy Awards.

Last year, La La Land helmer Damien Chazelle won both prizes. This year, all but McDonagh are nominated in the category. Del Toro, like Gerwig, Peele and McDonagh, was a first time DGA nominee Saturday.

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